January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

STEM Family Night – Fun Learning Night for All!

Posted: Friday, December 11th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

Seven years ago, a colleague and I were working on getting accepted to NASA Advanced Space Camp for Educators. We had been to basic camp, loved the experience, and knew for us to be accepted for Advanced Camp that we had to do something big. We decided to do a Space Night at our elementary school, have a pre-registration sign-up, invite scientists and educators from around Los Angeles come to do a 45-minute workshop, and it would be just the thing to get us accepted. 7 years later, Science Night is now the biggest event of the school year, with over 2/3 of the student body and their families attending on a Friday night in the spring (and yes, we were both accepted into Advanced Camp!).

There are many different ways of hosting or leading an evening STEM night. Before teaching elementary, I taught 8th grade Physical Science at a school that every subject had a night activity during the year. We had a Math Night, Social Studies Night, Science Night, and English/Language Arts Night- all of which were well-attended, and planned to be about 2 months apart from each other, to not interfere with the other events. Each classroom teacher was in charge of some kind of hands-on activity in some aspect of their subject matter. For example- for Science Night, one room was dissecting squid (with a side table cooking up the squid to much on), another room made bracelets with each color of bead representing a genetic trait, one room had a “murder mystery”, where the students had to look at the fingers swirls of the suspects (classroom teachers), and try to figure out who committed the crime. Each activity did not cost too much, was able to be completed in about 10 minutes, and had some component to take home- either the actual activity, or a handout that explained the science behind what they did. The hope would be that when they saw the paper, bracelet, etc, that it would help them remember what they had done that evening, and inspire more questions or thought.

At my current school, we had not done anything of that matter before. Doing a Science Night at an elementary school was easier in some aspects (thinking of something hands-on that covers a concept is easier when thinking about a 6-year-old as opposed to an 8th grade student), but also remembering that an elementary school is much more likely to have very young siblings that shouldn’t have items easily placed in their mouth makes it more challenging. Over the years, Science Night changed from a pre-registration, maximum of 30 people per workshop, and only 2 workshops in an evening, to an Open-House format, with 15 workshops, and a 3-hour window of time. In addition to the workshops, there is normally 2 or 3 shows – animal shows, a “bug guy,” or some presenters from a workshop doing a bigger production.

So how do you go about starting a STEM night? Begin with what surrounds your community. If you teach in a Title I school, there are a bunch of companies and museums that will come to your school in the evenings to lead programs, either for free or at a very reduced cost. Many large companies, particularly in the aerospace industry, have programs for schools that vary between guest speakers to building paper airplanes, to shooting off rockets – all you have to do is ask!

Depending on your school demographics, you may have some parents or community members that are in STEM fields that would be willing to come out to show what they do. Pictures, videos, maybe a small hands-on activity is all that so many kids need to get inspired for a new career option that they had never considered before.

But what about if you live in an area that doesn’t have a company around willing to host, and the families or community members are not interested in presenting? If you have a few teachers willing to jump in, you can still make an incredible night! NASA has a number of easy-to-lead, hands-on activities such as “toys in space,” in which the kids make or play with a variety of toys, and then can watch videos of the toys being played with on the International Space Station. I have had parents lead a “fun fly” station, where they can play with battery-operated “wands” to create a static field in order to keep small mylar shapes upright. Have a teacher who is a fan of coding? Bring out some iPads, and have the students do some simple coding with Scratch Jr. or a similar program. Options are endless!

Over the years, our school’s Cub Scouts have gotten involved, selling pizza for the night. The boys are excited, because it helps them earn badges, the families get fed, and the scouts have then donated the proceeds back to the science program- everyone wins!

While it can take a lot of prep to get started, the magic that a STEM night produces for the students, the school, and the community is incredible. Give it a shot! If you need ideas on how to get an evening started, please feel free to contact me!

Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified, and is CSTA’s Intermediate (grade 3-5) Director.

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified, former CSTA Upper Elementary director, and is a current CSTA member.

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

STEM Conference Hosted by CMSESMC

Posted: Saturday, January 14th, 2017

The Council of Math/Science Educators of San Mateo County will be hosting the 41st annual STEM Conference this February 4, 2017 at the San Mateo County Office of Education. This STEM Conference is the place to get lots of new lessons and ideas to use in your classroom. There will be over twenty-five workshops and a variety of exhibitors that provide participants with a wide range of practical and realistic ideas and resources to use in their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from Pre-K to grade 12. With California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, we are dedicated to ensuring that we prepare our teachers to take on these educational policies.

Teachers, administrators and parents are invited to explore the many exciting aspects of STEM education and learn about and discuss the latest news, information and issues. This is also an opportunity to network with colleagues who can assist you in building your programs and meet new friends that share your interests and love of teaching.

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Opportunities to Support NGSS Implementation with CTC

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

What follows are several opportunities for science teachers to work with the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) on various projects that have direct or indirect implications for the implementation of NGSS in California. Please consider applying to one or more of the following opportunities.

CSET Field Testing Opportunities

Field testing opportunities for future CSET Multiple Subjects and Science tests are available beginning Dec. 5, 2016. Participants will have the choice between a $50 Barnes and Noble eGift Card or a $75 test fee voucher that may be applied to future test registration fees. For more information, including how to register to participate, please visit: http://www.pearsonvue.com/espilot/cset.asp. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Submit Your NGSS Lessons and Units Today!

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

Achieve has launched and is facilitating an EQuIP Peer Review Panel for Science–a group of expert reviewers who will evaluate the quality and alignment of lessons and units to the standards–in an effort to identify and shine a spotlight on emerging high-quality lesson and unit plans designed for the NGSS.

If you or your state, district, school, or organization has designed NGSS-aligned instructional materials, please consider submitting these in order to help provide educators across the country with various models and templates of high-quality lesson and unit plans. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Opportunity for High School Students – Los Angeles County

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

An upcoming Perry Outreach Program on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at the Orthopaedic Institute for Children in Los Angeles, CA. The Perry Outreach Program is a free, one-day, hands-on experience for high school and college-aged women who are interested in pursuing careers in medicine and engineering. Students will hear from women leaders in these fields and try it for themselves by performing mock orthopaedic surgeries and biomechanics experiments. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Science Education Policy Update

Posted: Friday, January 13th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

January 2017 has proven to be a very busy month for science education policy and CA NGSS implementation activities. CSTA has been and will be there every step of the way, seeking and enacting all options to support high-quality science education and the successful implementation of CA NGSS.

California Department of Education/U.S. Department of Education Science Double-Testing Waiver Hearing

The year started with California Department of Education’s (CDE) hearing with the U.S. Department of Education conducted via WebEx on January 6, 2017. This hearing was the final step in California’s efforts to secure a waiver from the federal government in order to discontinue administration of the old CST and suspension of the reporting of student test scores on a science assessment for two years. As reported by EdSource, the U.S. Department of Education representative, Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary John King Jr., committed to making her final ruling “very shortly.” Deputy Superintendent Keric Ashley presented on behalf of CDE during the hearing and did an excellent job describing the broad-based support for this waiver in California, the rationale for the waiver, and California’s commitment to the successful implementation of a new high-quality science assessment. As previously reported, California is moving forward with its plans to administer a census pilot assessments this spring. The testing window is set to open on March 20, 2017. For more information visit New CA Science Test: What You Should Know.

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.